Hugh Bowman may have expressed some doubt, but punters weren’t listening when they crashed Camino Rocoso into second favourite for the Gr.1 Vodafone NZ Derby.
Camino Rocoso and Hugh Bowman proving too good at Ellerslie last night.
Camino Rocoso’s odds for the March 4 Ellerslie feature were slashed to $7 after his impressive win in the Henley Park 1600, a special conditions event at last night’s Karaka Million meeting.
That puts the Shocking three-year-old into second favourite for the Derby, ahead of Gr.1 Levin Classic winner Hall Of Fame and that horse’s stablemate, Group One-winning juvenile Heroic Valour, dual Group One placegetter Savile Row and the unbeaten Volpe Veloce (who defeated Heroic Valour last night) all at $9.
Sacred Elixir, another Group One winner, remains as the early Derby favourite at $5 after a fresh-up fourth behind Volpe Veloce at Ellerslie last night.
Co-trainer Murray Baker has made no secret that he believes Camino Rocoso has what it takes to be a realistic chance in the 2400-metre NZ Derby, which the stable won a couple of years ago with Mongolian Khan, and he boosted Bowman’s confidence going into last night’s event.
“I’ve had a bit to do with Murray, as everybody knows, and obviously Andrew Forsman,” said Bowman. “When Murray came to the (jockeys) room and said ‘I really like this horse’ I took that as a very big tip because he doesn’t get carried away with his horses and when he’s got a good one he knows.”
And after guiding Camino Rocoso to a three-quarter length win Bowman agreed with Baker — “he’s pretty smart,” he said. But he is uncertain at this stage over his ability to win the Derby.
“I think he’s going to improve as he has a bit more experience and I think 2000 metres will be right up his alley,” said Bowman. “I’m not sure about a mile and a half (2400m), but time will tell.”
Forsman heard Bowman’s comment but believes Camino Rocoso has what it takes to win the Derby.
“He was pretty fresh and paraded a lot fresher today,” he said. “With the benefit of that run and up against his own age group (later on) he can get the Derby trip.
“He’s very smart. We thought at the mile it may be a bit sharp. He’s a real Derby horse in the making and Hugh rode him a treat. He was always in the right spot to win the race and he presented him at the right time. It was a great ride on a very good horse.”
Bowman pushed Camino Rocoso out to be third and one off the rails in the early rush and soon settled him fourth. Camino Rocoso then cruised up to challenge on the home turn and after leading with 200 metres to run he proved too good.
“He was a bit sluggish to get into stride and I was told that might happen so I gave him a niggle to get in a good position,” said Bowman. “Then he was inclined to over-race a bit, but when I was able to settle him back behind and get cover he settled really well.”
Camino Rocoso was unplaced in two educational juvenile runs last year and has continued to improve this season. He was third fresh-up behind Speedy Grey and the highly rated Sacred Shot in a strong form race at Te Aroha before winning a maiden 1600 at Ellerslie on December 7.
To keep him ticking over for yesterday’s race Baker and Forsman lined him up at the Cambridge trials 12 days earlier and he finished third to Martiniz Special.
Camino Rocoso is likely to step up to 2100 metres next start in the Gr.2 Retina Specialists Avondale Guineas at Ellerslie on February 18.